About the Book
Why would someone want to create or own the mounted skin of a dead animal? That’s the question I explore in The Authentic Animal, starting with the life story of Carl Akeley, the father of modern taxidermy. Akeley started small by stuffing a canary, but by the end of his life he had created the astonishing Akeley Hall of African Mammals at The American Museum of Natural History. What Akeley strove for and what fascinates me is the attempt by the taxidermist to replicate the authentic animal, looking as though it’s still alive. To get a first-hand glimpse at this world, I’ve traveled to the World Taxidermy Championships, the garage workplaces of people who mount freeze-dried pets for bereaved owners, and the classrooms of a taxidermy academy where students stretch deer pelts over foam bases. On my travels, I look at the many forms taxidermy takes—hunting trophies, museum dioramas, roadside novelties, pet memorials—and consider what taxidermy has to tell us about human-animal relationships.
Praise for The Authentic Animal
“Madden’s prose is a joy to read; some passages strike me as poetry…. And Madden’s claims about taxidermy are almost always thought-provoking.” — Louisville Courier-Journal
“Muses with verve and wit on the relationships between human and animal, art and artifact, as well as on the collector’s obsession.” — Publisher’s Weekly
“A readable, sometimes chilling tour of an intriguing subculture.” — Kirkus Reviews
“A long, rich, and, yes, colorful history…Madden covers it all with genuine curiosity, respect, depth, and wit…Remarkably entertaining and thought-provoking.” — Booklist (starred review)
“An engagingly offbeat study [that] lets us in on the bizarre and sometimes repellent world of taxidermy from its earliest beginnings … to the present.” — Wall Street Journal
“The best … book on the history and art and weird impulses that lead to preserving dead animals in life-like forms…. Really a hell of a good read.” — Corduroy Books
“The Authentic Animal is a gem. And though certainly Dave Madden’s debut non-fiction title should become an instant classic in the world of taxidermy … even the non-taxidermist will find intrigue and interest in the story of this unusual yet absorbing business…. Madden has made a non-fiction book that sings.” — J.A. Tyler, The Nervous Breakdown
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The Authentic Animal